Tag Archives: Kumaly

Trekking the Tiger Trail in Thekady


Forests, grasslands and mountains around Periyar lake, Thekady near Kumaly

Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) in the Kerala region of the Western Ghats is approachable from Thekady near Kumaly in Iduki district.  The artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar dam makes it an ethereal paradise with surrounding evergreen forests and grasslands.  Rivers Mullayar and Periyar join hands to form this high altitude lake situated well above 800m.

A Mannan tribal hut built by the guides near landing in Thekady

Wild boars near the lake

Boating in the lake offers a spectacular view of the flora and fauna.  Trekking inside the surrounding forests are also an intimate way to explore this unique wildlife sanctuary at the border of Kerala and Tamilnadu.  Plenty of trails and guides are available now with the Eco Development Committees.

Sky and lake blues in Thekady

Jungle Babbler in Thekady

Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas invited me for a brief expedition inside the PTR forests and we reached Kumaly on 21 April 2011 by night.  We stayed at the Ambady Hotel run by his nephew and the next morning forest guide Rajkumar took us to the forest.  Adv. Suraj was also with us.

Across the lake on bamboo raft: Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas leading the expedition

All arrangements were done by our host Tintu and he also provided us with those precious pairs of leech socks that are essential for trekking inside the reserve as summer showers are a daily phenomenon now in high range.

Stream Glory sailing on the bamboo raft in Periyar lake

From the boat landing we went left to cross the lake on a bamboo raft and then entered the trek path along the edge of the water.

Ambady designed by Laury Baker in Kumaly

A wild boar came against us with its threatening teeth.  It avoided confrontation and fortunately kept a distance from us as it crossed us.

Wild Boar encounter in Thekady

Red-wattled Lapwings and Great and Little Cormorants are plenty along the lake.  Pied and White-throated Kingfishers are also plenty in the lake.  On hearing a heavy wing beat like a chopper our guide Rajkumar quickly led us to a huge tree by the lake and we saw two Great Hornbills flying away from the gigantic tree.  I remembered seeing the Great Hornbills crossing the lake while on a boat journey in the lake a few years back.

Grasslands and evergreen forests around Periyar lake

Woolly-necked Stork and Median Egrets in Periyar lake

We heard the calls of Scimitar Babblers all around the forests in the morning.  We could see several Median Egrets and a Woolly-necked Stork near a shallow stretch of the lake.  Paddy field Pipits are also seen here.  Chestnut-headed Beeeaters are abundant.

A moth in PTR, Thekady

Little Spider Hunters and Purple Sunbirds are also common.  We could see a Honey Buzzard passing and a Crested Serpent Eagle resting on a tall bare branch.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch in PTR

Chestnut-headed Beeeater in PTR, 22 Apl 2011

A few miles away from the landing towards east we saw fresh pug marks of the tiger.  It was just a few hours old as it was evident from the rain drenched soil according to Rajkumar who hails from the indigenous Mannan tribe.  He is also aware of all the birds, mammals, butterflies and plants.  He also showed us some wild orchids with flowers.

Borwn-capped Pygmy Woodpecker in PTR, Thekady

We could also find the droppings of Porcupine, Sloth Bear, Jungle cats and wild dogs.We also saw the presence of an elephant herd through their fresh dung in the grass near water and heard the sound of reeds being broken by the pachyderms inside the thick jungle.  While waiting for the giants we could see a Stripe-necked Mongoose with its striking chestnut color against the green of the grass.

Tiger pug marks in PTR, Thekady

Rajkumar showed us some Malabar Parkeets, Plum-headed Parakeets and Velvet-fronted Nuthatches.  He also showed us a few Brwon-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers so close.

Common Flameback Woodpecker in PTR

Then we entered the thick evergreen forest and thanks to the leech socks given by Tintu we were saved from the attacking vampires from all sides craving for our blood.

Pipit in Elaphant dung in PTR

We could see plenty of Malabar Grey Hornbills and Malabar Trogons inside the forest.  Out learned guide made me notice the call of Trogons.  Plenty of Red Helen butterflies are seen inside the semi evergreen patches.  Tamil Yeomans,

Four Ring butterfly in PTR, Thekady

Common Castors, Grass Yellows, Southern Rustic etc. are also common.  Though he searched for Frogmouths we could not find them.  They are also plenty in the evergreen shelters in PTR but locating them is tricky because of their perfect camouflage.

Rajkumar helping Suraj to get rid of leeches

Stripe-necked Mongoose in PTR, Thekady

Towards the end of the trail we saw plenty of Neelgiri Langurs and Bonnet Macaques.  A single Common Map butterfly and Forest and Stream Glory damselflies also appeared  before us.  It took a few hours to get back to the landing.

People from all over the world in PTR, Thekady. Note the leech socks on

Wild orchid blossom in PTR, Thekady

We rested in the room for a few hours after lunch and returned to Kottayam by evening.  The summer showers this year have been a blessing so far in Kottayam and Iduki districts but it is harming farmers in Kuttanad.

The return: Adv. Suraj pulling the raft-rope

Tamil Yeoman in PTR

Monsoon Birding in the Cardamom Hills

122319Yesterday I visited Anavilasam near Kumaly with Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas. We were heading towards his farm there from Kumaly in the early morning hours. Adv. Paul was also with us. It was misty and overcast.

But there is hardly any rain in the high ranges these days. We were alarmed by the conditions in the reservoirs. Perhaps it could be a short break after the second spell of Monsoon.

Since it was cloudy and gloomy in the cardamom plantations we could not see many birds and butterflies.

Yet we saw plenty of hill mynas making a lot of noise and movement. We were also lucky to see two pretty white-bellied tree pies crossing the road virtually over our heads. It was a wonderful sight to begin a day of birding.

We reached Kadmankuty and began the toughest part of the journey on a four-wheel-drive jeep uphill. The one hour jeep odyssey was really challenging, intensely testing and extremely adventurous. There was hardly any road ahead but rocky crags and loose pebbles. The jeep was

Pied Kingfishers

Pied Kingfishers

jumping from one stone to another.

But once we reached the top we could see Kattappana town down below. This moment it drizzles, the next moment sun shines. When it rains in our hill we can see sun shinning bright on the next one. It was a magical experience. When we were surrounded by fog; Kattappana was burning bright in hot sunlight, just a few kilometres down below!

Just before reaching the farm we saw plenty of house swifts near a rocky grass land catching small airborne insects before short spells of drizzle. they were wrooooming past us like rockets brushing hour shoulders. It was an amazing sight watching them in live action on that gorgeous hillside.

Another important experience is the long sustaining and resonant whistling bouts of Malabar whistling-thrushes. They were pouring their soulful music unending in this region. The farm seems to be full of them. we heard the birds’ artful notes literally every minute till noon. Because of the mist we could not see any, but still their whistling is resonating in the ears.

We also spotted a few raptors beside the huge granite cliff. A few pairs of freshwater crabs showed up with big right claws ready to cut through, in the small cataract. We got a few snaps of Five-ring and Dark Bule-tiger butterflies. Blue Mormons and Blue Bottles are plenty. Chocolate pansy and Wanderer also gave us some glimpses. Common Emigrents and Grass Yellows are also visible.

Later we enjoyed some farm-fresh oranges and guavas and began our return journey by the early afternoon. Along the retreat we again noticed the dismally low water level in the Idukky reservoir from atop Kalvary Mount, Cheruthony and Kulamavu.

Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas also found time to join and cheer up the little anglers waiting patiently on the banks of a small lake were lilac waterlilies bloom, before the Kulamavu police station. We reached back in Kottayam around 8pm.